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What’s new in WordPress 5.4? (Blocks, Accessibility & Site Health)

In this fourth major release since WordPress 5.0, we’ll see more exciting improvements in the block editor.

The first beta was released last week. We took it for a spin and found that this release too will bring some exciting changes to the block editor.

Want to find out what’s new in WordPress 5.4? Keep reading.

How to test WordPress 5.4 Beta 1?

You can test the WordPress 5.4 beta in two ways –

Please note that this is not a production-ready version. Do not use it on your live websites.

Also, note that the features for 5.4 are now frozen. Which means you cannot submit any feature requests. But you can submit any bugs that you find the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums.

What’s new in WordPress 5.4?

The primary goal of the core development team is to edit the full-site using the block editor. 

If and when this goal is achieved, non-developers will be able to easily change their headers, footers, and other areas that can’t yet be edited using the block editor, yet.

Looking at the first beta, 5.4 seems to be a step in the right direction.

New block for Social Links

WordPress 5.4 comes with a new social links block. 

The block supports icons for all the popular social sites. It comes in three styles — default, logos, and pills. The icons appear in their brand colors. There seems to be no option to change the color of these social icons.

New Buttons group block

With 5.4, you’ll now also be able to group buttons.

The Buttons group block is just a wrapper to wrap multiple Button blocks. All settings of the Button block will also be available to a button in the Buttons group.

More color options for Button, Cover, Group & Column blocks

The button, cover, group, and column blocks in WordPress 5.4 will come with new text and background color settings.

The button block will now also support gradient backgrounds.

Ability to display featured image in the Latest Posts block

The Latest Posts block will come with a setting to display featured images. You’ll be able to customize the featured image’s size and alignment.

Improved block editor performance

While it’s not yet the fastest editor, the block editor team has achieved a 14% loading time reduction and 51% time-to-type reduction, for a particularly sizable post (~ 36,000 words, ~1,000 blocks) since WordPress 5.3.

Other block editor changes

  • Welcome modal to help new users get started with the block editor.
  • Easier navigation in block breadcrumbs.
  • Easier image sizing in the Gallery block. 
  • Drag-and-drop images into the featured-image box. 
  • Table block captions. 
  • Ability to color just parts of the text in any RichText block.
  • Accessibility improvements:
    • Improved tabbed navigation including navigating the settings sidebar.
    • Support to change an image’s title attribute within the block.
    • Easy multi-block selection.

Site Health Improvements

Contributors are working hard on the Site Health project. The purpose of this project is to keep your WordPress website secure and running smoothly.

WordPress 5.4 adds a new widget to the WP admin dashboard.

The widget shows a quick stat about the site’s health. And warns the site administrators about potential issues that might affect the site’s health.

Accessibility improvements in the admin dashboard

Along with blocks, WordPress 5.4 also focuses on improving the accessibility in the admin dashboard.

There are three major improvements:

  • Improved focus state management in the menu, customizer, and site-health screens.
  • Simpler keyboard navigation in the media modal.
  • Improved privacy policy guide readability

Calendar widget markup improvement

To comply with the HTML 5.1 standards, the navigation links in the calendar widget have been moved to a <nav> element. This element immediately follows the <table> element.

apply_shortcode() instead of do_shortcode()

Developers are advised to use apply_shortcode() instead of do_shortcode(). While do_shortcode() still exists, apply_shortcode() provides better semantics.

Improved favicon handling

There’s even more flexibility to manage favicons in WordPress 5.4.

Administrators can upload their favicon from the customizer, or upload a /favicon.ico. The website’s logo is used as the default fallback.

Other changes for developers

  • Improved error messages in wp_login_failed.
  • The newblog_notify_siteadmin filter has a new site id parameter in the case of multisite installs.
  • Support for required PHP and WordPress version headers in themes.
  • Support for TikTok embeds.

WordPress 5.4 release schedule

WordPress 5.4 is scheduled to release on March 31, 2020. Here’re the milestones along the way.

Target DateRelease
11 February 2020Beta 1
18 February 2020Beta 2
25 February 2020Beta 3
3 March 2020Release Candidate 1
10 March 2020Release Candidate 2
17 March 2020Release Candidate 3
24 March 2020Release Candidate 4
31 March 2020Release

Conclusion

WordPress 5.4 looks like a release that will improve the block editor even further.

You can test this beta release and submit any bugs you may find in the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums. Known bugs can be found here.

And if you speak a language other than English, you can help translate this release.

What’s your favorite feature in WordPress 5.4? Let us know in the comments below?

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